STANTON MOORE | THE INTERVIEW

Let's start with the term Flyin' The Koop, the name of drummer extraordinaire Stanton Moore's latest release. The name for this album is a metaphor for breaking down preconceived notions, which is something that Stanton has succeeded in doing with this album. Stanton grew up in the groove, playing drums in various New Orleans settings throughout childhood, into high school, and throughout his adult life. His patented sound and style has established him amongst the elite in his field. He is certainly one of the most sought after musicians around, and further proves his strength through the wide array of projects he is involved in.

With Flyin' The Koop, Moore assembled an amazing cast to take into the recording studio. In addition to having top-notch musicians with him, Stanton decided to really utilize the technical advancement that a recording studio offers, and has put together an absolutely fabulous piece of work. In our hour or so long conversation, Stanton's kind, and extremely cool nature poured over the phone lines as he touched on his career, teaching, vinyl, Galactic, Skerik, his wife and, well Moore. . .


photo by dino perrucci
Kayceman: So you were born and raised in New Orleans, is that correct?

Stanton Moore: Uh huh.

Kayceman: And you attended Loyola University right?

Stanton Moore: That’s right.

Kayceman: What did you study there?

Stanton Moore: I was a music major with a business minor.

And when did you start playing with the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars?

That was probably around '94 or '95, somewhere around there.

And did that precede Galactic?

That was about at the same time, I actually started playing with Galactic before Klezmer band, but I started hitting the road with the Klezmer Allstars before Galactic.

And you more or less put Galactic together?

Well that was like, Rob and Jeff, they were from DC --Robert the bass player, and Jeff the guitar player-- and they came down with the concept and the name, and I hooked up with those guys. So it was kinda their baby from the beginning, and then we started playing as Galactic Prophylactic around town.

And then you guys hit the road pretty hard and haven’t really let up.

Yeah we hit the road in '96, and we’ve been doing about 200 days a year on the road, maybe more than 100 gigs, but with all the travel around 200 days of being on the road.

And how did you get involved with Dan Prothero and Fog City?

He had come down to New Orleans and was looking for some bands to check out, and he heard about us. He had brought a little portable recording set up and he recorded us and that ended up being put on a Ubiquity compilation. So when we wanted to do our own record we called Dan to produce it.

And your new album, Flyin' The Koop, with Skerik, Karl D, Seeger, and Chris Wood. How did you put that together? That’s an amazing cast.

Thank you. Well Superfly, who’s now our manager, they do these super-jams down there, so I did a super-jam with Karl, and Chris Wood and me, and they had Henry Butler, this brilliant New Orleans piano player, and Leo Nocentelli from The Meters on guitar. So me and Chris and Karl Denson improvised for the first half an hour of the show together, and I knew before we even played the show that I wanted to do my next record, whatever it was going to be, with Chris. So then we played that gig and I started thinking well, I’ll get Chris, and Karl and Skerik as the horns. I wanted to explore some stuff with loops and just have some space, harmonically. And then I decided to get Brian Seeger on it for a few tunes, but Brian’s only on it for like five tunes on the record.

Sort of in relation to that, I read an interview with you in Offbeat where you speak of Johnny Vidacovich's influence on you. Particularly in showing you that “drums are not just about what you play but how you play.” And specifically how you began to see music as a conversation between players and audience.

Right.

So I’m wondering how you feel this conversation differs between Galactic and your solo projects, Garage A Trois, Moore and More, etc.?

I guess it would differ just in the cast of characters. It’s like if your sitting down with five of your friends you guys may have something you talk about right. And then you go off and sit down with another four or five of your friends, another bunch of guys, your probably gonna wind up talking about some other topics. So it’s just about that, just me getting a chance to talk with some other guys. To interact with some other voices, some other ideas. And it’s like I play everyday, so I just like to play as many different things as I can. So it’s fun to put together lineups of guys that I admire, like Galactic is a total blast, and it’s my primary thing. And then I get to put together projects with guys that I’ve met over the years and really enjoy playing with. So it’s like I’m in a very ideal situation.

Definitely. And it seems to me that Galactic is more steeped in funk and keeping the crowd dancing and partying, whereas your solo projects seem a little bit more experimental. And as you were relating to conversation, are you specifically using these projects to do a different sound than Galactic, is it specific in that nature?

In a way, I don’t think maybe intentionally, but in a way that happens. But ya know now Galactic is kinda getting into a lot of different things too, like a lot of different loops and kinda like starting to get into the same kind of areas that I’ve been getting into like with this new record Flyin’ The Koop and all that stuff.

For all your work, how is most of your material written, do you do most of the writing? Is it collaborative?

For Flyin’ The Koop we did a lot of collaborative stuff in the studio. I had written like one tune all the way through. I’ll do that sometimes with Galactic, I’ll bring in tunes that I’ve written all that way through. And then some of the other guys will bring in stuff, and a lot of times like with Galactic it’s very collaborative. But sometimes someone will bring in a tune that’s finished. And with my project I wanted to go in and write most of the stuff together. Like put on a loop and listen to it, and everybody kinda like start writing together, being inspired by that particular loop. You know, because you put on a loop and it’s like ‘Look I really want to do something with this loop’ and everybody hears it and is like ‘wow it’s great.’ And you know by loops I mean these are all loops I’ve created. And then tweak ‘em out with different guitar pedals and what have you. And you hear that stuff and it instantly makes you think of like, ‘oh I can play this on here, and I can hear some stuff I want to lay down.’ So we would lay that down and then go in and improvise maybe like five times over it. So we would record the melodies and stuff like that and then go in and improvise over it, and then take and edit it later. So I did like maybe five days of editing where we would edit the stuff after the fact, after we had already played the music. So in that regard it was cool, because you got the spontaneity of the improvisation, but at the same time you got to edit it and make it into a concise piece of music.

Now with the album All Kooked Out was there any loops used on that?

No

I thought I remembered reading that that was all real time.

Yeah that was no overdubs no loops nothing.

So with Galactic though you use a lot of effects and loops, is that correct?

Yes.

And in your solo projects now your obviously incorporating that as well.

Yeah I’m using that stuff too.

With All Kooked Out was that a real conscious decision not to use any effects.

Yeah, and that was pretty much my conscious vision, not necessarily just for that record but that was my conscious decision for the way that I wanted to be playing music at that time. I wanted to really concentrate on playing organically and playing like what you hear on the record is what we played. And then since then I’ve gotten into the concept of the end result justifies the means. So you know I’m very proud of All Kooked Out, I like that record a lot and that’s definitely where I was at that time. But with Flyin’ The Koop it’s like I’m starting to integrate that same kind of concept with loops and sonic things I’m starting to get into with tweaking the sound out, and I just wanted the end result to be like you put on the record and your like, 'wow this sounds really good.' And it doesn’t matter how you got to that. Because you know it’s not like we’re fukin’ fabricating shit, you know we can play. So we do that, we play. And then we use the studio as a tool just to enhance the music that we do. I mean the Beatles where great at that. They would take their stuff and it didn’t really matter how they got to the end result. What mattered was that they made incredible records. That’s the frame of mind I was in for Flyin’ The Koop.


photo by dino perrucci
In thinking about the dynamics between you, Charlie and Skerik, I was curious if you feel like when the three of you get together, if that’s sort of an ongoing evolutionary process, if your sort of pushing new ground, or if it’s sort of run it’s course?

Yeah, definitely, because we don’t get to play that much so we’ll get together and we haven’t seen each other in months. And then we’ve all been checking out so many other things. So we kind of have certain things we play together, but then we’ll always add in new stuff, and we’re always checking out new stuff so it’s pretty cool, it’s a pretty fun little project to play with.

I know that the Mystery Funk album was put onto vinyl, I was wondering if that was done with DJ’s in mind, or just for posterity sake?

In a way, ya putting it on vinyl was definitely done with DJ’s in mind. Ya, well, that was basically out takes from All Kooked Out while we were kind of experimenting with Skerik playing through effects and stuff. But I didn’t want All Kooked Out to be like that. I wanted it to be really pure, but we did some of that in the studio. So after everything was all said and done and we put out the record then Dan was like, "Man, we got all this other great stuff, let me put it out” and I was like “O.K. cool.” I mean it’s completely different from All Kooked Out but it was done in the same session.

Are you going to put Flyin’ The Koop or any other stuff onto vinyl?

That’s a good idea. I’d like to really. I want to. I’ve mentioned it and talked about it with my manager about trying to get Flyin’ The Koop onto vinyl.

And in thinking about this, with vinyl and what not, you know Billy Martin did his illy B Eats record obviously with DJ’s in mind, do you have any interest in doing something like that?

Yeah, I definitely plan on doing like a break beat record. You know we’re on the road with the Triple Threat DJ’s now.

Yeah, what’s that all about?

They’re three of the badest DJ’s in the universe.

What are their names?

The name of their group is Triple Threat. A couple of them used to be in the Beat Junkies, a couple of them used to be in the Invisible Scratch Pickles. . .

Can’t go wrong with that cast.

Exactly. One of them is DJ Apollo, (the other two are Vinroc, Shortkut) who was with Branford Marsalis’ Buckshot LaFonque and two of them hold world titles, and one of them holds a USA title, you know from these DJ battles. So they’re like the real deal mother fuckers man. And so we just did a thing with them, and they’re telling me, “dude you have to do a fuckin’ break beat record,” they’re like “just go in and play what you play and kids are gonna eat that shit it up.” So I’m planning on doing it, I’ve been planning on it for a while. And then Billy came out with his thing, and it just makes perfect sense. And I’ve been planning on doing one for years. Like even when we did All Kooked Out we recorded a bunch of drums and Dan was talking about releasing a break beat record from that or something.

It sounds like a very natural progression. You’ve mentioned a few DJ’s, I was curious what other type of younger bands or kinds of newer music have you been digging on, any younger drummers?

Like things I’ve been listening to lately man, I’ve been listening to some Massive Attack, and Crystal Method’s new record, because I’m really getting into the sounds and shit. So those sounds inspire me to take some of the New Orleans influence grooves that I do and apply some of those sounds to that kind of shit, to the really heavy New Orleans stuff and that’s kind of what I was starting to touch on with Flyin’ The Koop. And then there are some young dudes out there that in a few years are gonna be playing their asses off. There’s this one dude I just talked to today who’s a student of mine, and he’s like going to New Orleans for school and shit, and of all the younger dudes I’ve seen he’s definitely the most dedicated and talented young dude, and it’s going to be scary to see what he’s doing in a few years.

Who else have you really enjoyed playing with besides your bands?

Well we’re doing this project right now with myself, and Johnny Vidacovich on drums, George Porter on bass, and Rich Vogel from Galactic on keys, and that’s a blast. You know I love playing with George Porter, and then the other night at The Bowery Ballroom, a friend of mine from New Orleans Glen Passious sat in, he’s a keyboard player that a lot of people might not have heard of, he’s played on a lot of records and done some stuff with like Daniel Lanois, and he played the other night, and the stuff that he was playing was so killer man, I had a blast playing with him, and we’re gonna try to start working together a little bit. He’s brilliant, talented and also a killer songwriter, and just a wicked, wicked keyboard player, like organ and wurly, piano player. So Glen, I had a blast playing with him the other night, you know I could go on for hours, I’m just trying to think of what I’ve been doing lately. Of course, you know I’m looking forward to playing with Skerik and Chris Wood coming up, and John Ellis and Brian Seeger. John Ellis is going to be on the tour, it’s going to be the same band that’s on the record except for Karl Denson.

In thinking about you, Charlie, and Skerik, the dynamic between the three of you, three such pillars of your instruments, when you guys get together, it seems like you blend so perfectly, is there ever any struggle to kind of dominate or anything like that?

No it feels natural playing with those dudes for sure.

Yeah in an interview I did with Skerik not to long ago, he, incidentally speaks incredibly highly of you. . .

(Laughing) It’s good to know it’s mutual.

Oh yeah he spoke of both you and Charlie in the highest light. And he said, “Thank God I know Stanton Moore so I can play with that little fucker, because I love kicking his ass, and having my ass kicked by him.”

(Lots of laughter) That’s cool. You printed that?

Yeah.

Oh, that’s great.

So Skerik joins you quite often, does he ever enlist you to do any of the many projects that he does?

Yeah, we're talking about this one project he wants to do. Yeah he calls me up for some things. But you know it’s hard because we live so far away. But ya, we’re always talking about shit we’re gonna try to work on.

Now you did a drum clinic at the end of the year is that right?

Yeah, I do a bunch of ‘em. I did one at the PAS, percussive arts society convention.

How do you like teaching other student’s do you enjoy that?

Yeah, I like it, as long as people are receptive, and want to hear what I have to say. I guess ya know. If they’re there to learn about what I do or whatever, then I’m totally into turning people on to what it is that I do.

Now I heard somewhere, and wanted to ask you before I ran off with it, that Tony Nozero from Drums and Tuba. . .

YEAH!

I heard that he kind of used you as a mentor. . .

He’s a dope dude.

I was wondering, have you had any specific sit down teaching with him, or is he just influenced by you?

Well we toured for a while, and I’ve known Tony for years. We would like sit-down together at his house and listen to records, and maybe jam, and he might ask me like, “Oh show me that, I saw you play this the other night, show me what you did with that.” Stuff like that, and we’ve been doing that since like, shit, since I was on the road with the Klezmer band. We’re talking seven or eight years ago or whatever.

So you’ve known him that long?

Yeah, I’ve known Tony for a long time. So he came on the road with Drums and Tuba with Galactic, so he had his drum set up on stage while mine was too. They would be doing sound check, and he’d come down sound check, and then we would sit down at each others kits. And then I would sit in with them and do the double drummer stuff. So yeah, we would just hang out and just talk about music. But Tony is dope. I love what he’s doing with Drums and Tuba.

Do you find your other projects outside of Galactic are more steeped in improv? Or does Galactic branch off just as much as your other stuff?

Galactic can definitely branch off. You know with Galactic it’s like we play together so much. And with these other bands it’s like there’s more of an element of “what are we going to play now?” Maybe because we don’t quite know that many tunes, so you always go into it with the mind set that you need to stretch it out. So with Galactic it’s like we’ve got so many tunes man, we just did three nights in New York and didn’t repeat any tunes, we may have repeated one tune, like a brand new vocal tune, because we wanted to people to hear it. So we may have repeated that. And we played it the first night and didn’t play it again until the third night, I think that’s the only thing we really repeated. So it’s like we got a lot of tunes, so you just get into a different mind frame when your with guys that you love to play with but you know that you gotta play three hours worth of music and only have like eight songs, so you gotta stretch it out. So I think that’s what contributes to that a lot. But Galactic, definitely we let the tunes try to change differently every night, and let them go wherever they want to go.

Is the material written with the idea of expansion?

Yeah. I guess. It’s like an unspoken word. Like we’ll write a tune and get on stage and play it differently every night until we find an arrangement that we kinda dig. And then we still wind up re-arranging stuff. But not necessarily like, sitting down and talking about it. So they just rework themselves. You play those tunes so many times, that eventually both you and the audience are dying of boredom and you just let the songs change, and re-arrange themselves. And you don’t need to sit down and talk about it like, “Oh, lets change it this way.” Like something might happen one night, and you like it, so you might do it again for a little while. And then it kinda becomes part of the arrangement maybe.

Do you prefer playing for an audience that’s dancing and partying or an audience that’s more attentive, with an ear to the music?

I think that I’ve played for people dancing and partying so much, that if I don’t have that then it’s hard. Like I’m concerned, I want the audience to be having a great time. So if people are sitting down listening I’m wondering if they’re having the best time. So if people are up there, right in my face dancing, I know everyone’s having a good time. But I like both. Like I’ll go in with Moore and More and we play sit down jazz clubs in New Orleans, and I love doing that. But at the same time I like having people boogieing. So I’m glad I can do both, that they’re both there.

Any thing on tap for the future that we can look forward to?

Well I'm starting to think about the next solo record. And then the MVVP thing, Moore, Vidacovich, Vogel, Porter, that’s pretty cool. And then you know I’ve got some Garage A Trois shows coming up for JazzFest, I’ve got my own tour coming up. And all that’s keeping me pretty busy. Next solo record I do is probably going to feature Moore and More, the band that I’ve been using down in New Orleans a lot. And ya know I’m always playing gigs with them too. So yeah, I’m always getting calls to do things so it’s cool.

And you recently got married right?

Yeah, I got married almost two years ago.

Are you planning on toning down your intense touring schedule?

I don’t know, she’s totally cool with it. She just came out to New York. I met her in New Orleans and we were together for a month and then I started hitting the road. So that’s the way it’s been ever since we’ve known each other. So that’s just kinda the way it is. But I mean if I have kids any time soon I’d have to start thinking about that. We kind of actually enjoy the freshness of coming back to each other after not seeing each other for a while. It kind of rejuvenates the relationship, so it’s kind of neat.

The Kayceman | Words
Dino Perrucci | Photos
JamBase | Mill Valley
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[Published on: 3/21/02]

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